Vintage Navajo Weaving: Single Saddle Blanket, Circa 1930, 2’2″ x 2’10”


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Single Saddle Blanket

This Vintage Navajo Weaving is a ‘Single Saddle Blanket’ design Circa 1930’s. The weaver is unknown due to the time it was woven. The weaving measures 2ft 2 inches x 2ft 10inches.

Early Saddle Blankets

The earliest saddle blankets were essentially smaller versions of the blankets the Navajos wore and were made for their own use and for trade. They featured patterns of horizontal stripes using natural colors such as white, brown or grey wool plus indigo-dyed blue, and red made from unraveled red trade cloth known as bayeta.

Weavers often embellished the stripes with stepped geometric motifs or serrated diamond shapes, the latter having been adapted from Spanish and Mexican textiles. In an effort to put an end to Navajo raids on Anglo and Hispanic settlers and Pueblo Indians, the US government hired Kit Carson to round up the Navajo. To accomplish this, he led a campaign to slaughter their sheep and destroy their crops and homes, driving the refugees to an internment camp at Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico.

During their detention from 1864 to 1868, the government supplied the weavers with factory-produced yarns, generically known as “Germantown” after the spinning mills in Germantown, Pennsylvania. The new yarns came in a wide array of bright colors, which the weavers used to great advantage in making complex diamond patterns, outlined in contrasting colors, called “eye dazzalers.” After the Navajo returned to their homeland, the government continued to supply them with Germantown yarn, but also brought in a new breed of sheep, called merinos, to rebuild Navajo flocks.

The annuity payments of factory yarn ended in 1878 and, although they still could purchase Germantown from traders, the weavers gradually returned to shearing, spinning, and dying their own wool.